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Leaving The Bench – 7 Recommendations for Scientists To Find a Job Outside the Lab

July 20, 2012
The Path from lab to happiness

Photo: Erika Hildegard Johnson

Can most of us agree that scientists in Chicago and elsewhere in America are unhappy with their job outlook? Whether it’s the life of a scientist (slow, monotonous) or the fact that there are more PhD’s than jobs available for them, many scientists are looking for a new path away from the lab bench. As a scientist in this mindset, do you feel lost on a random path in the wilderness? Where do you begin to search for the right path, the happier path?

I went through the difficult process of leaving the lab (I deserted a Pharmacology PhD program after 2 years), successfully converted into a sales & marketing rep, and started a Social Media Management company (Ruugy Media) that helps science & nature non-profits spread their message. I’d like to share my knowledge with you. Here are 7 recommendations to start creating opportunities that will land you a job outside the lab…and increase your happiness.

  1. Talk to sales reps – if you buy a lot from them, ask them to take you to lunch. Pick their brain. Ask about their job, lifestyle, travel, income, bosses. Understand the business side of science and find which area interests you most. Also, connect with reps on LinkedIn, start to build a new network.
  2. Sign up on ED’s Job List – I’ve had several friends, including myself, find past jobs from this list of opportunities.
  3. Identify your skills – You may lack experience, but not the skills. Working in a lab provides you plenty of talents that are cross-functional such as: project management, data analysis, time management, purchasing, budgeting, experiment design, and many more.
  4. Join Social Media – Since most scientists are shy, networking via Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn is ideal. You can meet people all over the world, build a relationship, and make a friend w/o ever making eye contact or shaking hands.
  5. Attend social/networking events – In the past year I’ve met people with science jobs that include science editor for Encyclopedia Britannica, data analyst for Orbitz, copywriters, marketing and communication specialists, and always teachers.
  6. Register for a Dabble class – Cheap and easy. If you live in Chicago, Denver, or San Francisco, Dabble organizes 1-3 hour one-time classes for $20 to help people pursue a hobby, learn a new skill, or follow a passion.
  7. Believe in yourself – Probably the most important step.

Thank u for reading. Don’t be afraid to make changes, it’s natural. #letUbeU

Related Links:

Teaching Scientists To Become Entrepreneurs, One Cold Call At A Time (via @WSJ Wall Street Journal)

Fix The PhD (via @Nature)

U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there (Via @WashingtonPost)

Social Media and Science (via @MIDSCI)

The World Population Today (via @NatGeo)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. onlineghostwriterforhire permalink
    July 21, 2012 11:15 AM

    You Can Do Anything That You Make Up Your Mind To Do!

  2. July 22, 2012 3:16 PM

    Interesting ideas, thanks for sharing! It’s certainly a society-eat-scientist world out there …

  3. July 31, 2012 8:30 AM

    Excellent comments! I really like the idea of Dabble. The low-stress way to get ones “feelers” out there. If you can find someone to help you with the lesson plan. Do you know if they offer these services?

    • July 31, 2012 9:41 AM

      Justin, as far as I know, they don’t offer these services. But I am working on a plan to teach a class to scientists about this blog post. There are a lot of “non-science” jobs that a scientist is qualified for, it’s a matter of finding and preparing for them.

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